If you had to choose one word to sum up your perfect life what would it be? Mine would be ‘balance’. (Or if I had to choose a Sanskrit word, ‘sattva’. )
I’ve been obsessed with balance my whole life. Have we all, or is it something to do with my Libra sun? (Probably a bit of both.) Surely we’d all love to have a life that kept us feeling grounded whilst at the same time, energised in the present moment, and excited about the future. Wouldn’t we all adore to look forward to waking up each morning so that we can do the work we need to do, spend time with the people we want to spend time with, practise the things we love and learn the things we desire to learn? That perfect work-life-relationships balance (and let’s add to that cliche -spirituality / personal development as those things are crucially important to me right now, and I wish were to everyone).
My sign is the scales – the only inanimant object in the zodiac and one that is characterised by a desire for balance and an obsession with beauty in all the manifestations the world has to offer. No coincidence then that I’ve always had a penchant for beautiful places, people, experiences and things, while I’ve also always endevoured to balance beautiful with ordinary; success with humility; spontaneity with effort, freedom with security, and so forth (often obsessively so). Growing up I developed OCD tendancies as I strived to keep all the elements of a perfect life that I’d dreamt up in my head together. I wanted to do everything (work, socialising, family obligations, hobbies) and I wanted to do it all with maximum enthusiasm, care and effort. In my head (and in my journals) I weighed up the pros and cons of all the choices ahead of me. I wrote lists of the tasks I needed to perform, errands I had to run, friends I had to keep up with, new after school / work activities I ‘should’ try. Thorough was my middle name. Making decisions was agonizingly arduous.
For years I tried so hard to balance my life that the act of balancing became an obsession itself. And inevitably, I bypassed balance, hurtling instead from one extreme to another. My path was that of a yoyo rather than a yogi: huge highs followed by sorrowful lows. Balance may have been on my mind, but I certainly didnt know how to achieve it. And as far as I have come today, I am still very much working on it.
This is something that I believe the Tantra yoga immersion course I took part in a month ago in Rishikesh was brought to me to teach me. By going deep again into yogic study (and while in the heartland of yoga, my beloved India), I have finally started to find my balance – my centre – again. More importantly, even when I struggle to get it right, I know what it is I need to do to maintain it. (Yoga.)
Pedro Franco, our teacher on the retreat, led a whole lecture on the principle of sattva (balance, or more accurately, consciousness; true essence; a state of being that allows us to live in harmony with universal energy). From an energetic perspective, this occurs when your central energy channel (Sushuma) becomes free and open. Then, Kundalini (life-force energy) can awaken and rise up, starting at the base chakra (Muladhara), up to the crown (Sahasrara), and flow freely in and around the body and out into the Universe. This is the state of Being known as Enlightenment.
Of course, not many of us are Enlightened. Most, sadly, are quite the opposite (using only a fraction of our consciousness; asleep). Instead of energy flowing freely and fully through our Sushumna channels, most of us have imbalances or blockages, particularly in our chakras (the seven key centres of energy that sit along our spine). These energetic upsets manifest in many ways, from physical pain, illness, and disease, to anxiety, depression, anger and so on.
Why am I bringing this up? Because in order to balance my life, what I learnt from Pedro (and knew before, I just hadn’t been paying attention to it), is that balance, just like happiness, peace, joy and love, comes from within. In fact all the aforementioned states are synonymous with balance. To achieve sattva is to achieve the pure joy of living in the present, in harmony with the Universe.
Achieving it is hard though, due to said blockages and imbalances, as they prevent us from connecting fully with ourselves, and therefore, to the universe. They prevent us from vibrating at our optimum frequency and experiencing the peace and joy we all desperately crave. Instead, we are ruled by our ego-minds and we go about our lives often emitting low frequency vibrations and experiencing, by Newton’s law of attraction, corresponding low energetic states, expressed through anxious, fearful and selfish thoughts, actions and emotions.
As the image above illustrates, Sattva is a state of balance – energetic homeostasis. Most of us however flit in a rather bi-polar fashion instead, between Tamas (under-active states triggered by low frequency thoughts, behaviours and emotions) and Rajas (over-active states fuelled by selfish desires e.g. greed and lust, in turn fuelling addictions and obsessive behaviour). This conflict causes tension in our physical bodies as well as in our minds. We strain our organs, lower our immune systems, and open ourselves to risk of injury and disease by living in these extremes, undulating from high to low and back again. (I’ve done it. I know the repercussions well.) Worse even than the physical traumas are the emotional blockages and rigid, mental thought and behavioural patterns (the disease of the mind) which we all carry.
Identifying one’s energy blockages and imbalances (i.e. traumas), I believe (actually, I know), is one of the keys to healing, and, it follows, to the evolution of human consciousness. (This is one of the prime reasons I want to build The Healing Network.) Why? Simply, because when we unblock stuck energy (darkness), which can manifest physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, we open space up for energy (light) to flow more freely through our bodies. (And if we do that collectively, through the Cosmos.)
Massage feels so good for that reason: when we loosen our muscles and increase blood flow to our veins, more energy flows. (Energy flows as water (blood) and as prana (air) to name just a couple of means.) Pyschotherapy and other talking therapies move and release energy too, as they help to shine consciousness (light) into areas of the subconsconcious (dark), this time in the mind and emotional body. Light into dark brings awareness: the trauma is now in your conscious mind and therefore you can choose to work on it or not. Sometimes, just bringing a trauma into one’s consciousness is enough to fix the problem (isn’t that amazing?!); othertimes it takes time, patience, effort and a trained healer to help. Crucially though, I believe the problem can always be fixed, as long as responsiblity starts with you.
Yoga healed me. But only because I asked it to. I set my intention. I surrendered to its possibilities and let it guide me. Then it gave me everything. This is testament to the healer – seeker relationship in everything, and in all of us, which perhaps is the ultimate test of balance: how to give selflessly to others and at the same time be my own healer? How to live a sattvic life, all the time, or at least as often as possible? (Sometimes we have to go to the extremes to come back to our centre.)
I’m going to find out. Pedro’s retreat got the fire going again in my belly and opened my heart enough to get my energy flowing freer than it has in months. Now I am ready to take my practice to the next level. Right now I am on my way to Dharamsala, where the magic really began for me in India one year ago. I’m heading there to do my 200 hour yoga teacher training course at the most beautiful place, Trimutri Gardens. (This is the setting in the above photo of the acro-yogis on the lawn.) Honestly, I don’t think I’ve been this excited about something for a long time. It’s not a butterflies in my stomach kind of excited, it’s a more warming, joyful kind of excitement. It comes from my heart, not my stomach. This is my path. Yoga is my teacher and I, maybe one day, can share that with others. (What a blessing.) I feel it is my dharma to share healing, in whatever way I can, and I know that to offer my full potential to the world I have to awaken it in myself – to empower myself and protect myself on this delicate and magnificant journey of finding my place in the world.
I am working on achieving sattva, everyday. I make tons of mistakes but I am conscious of them – I’m shining light on them. I am challenging the inner workings of my mind (the seeds of my thoughts and emotions) and exploring the longings of my heart.
I encourage you, too, if you relate to any of what I describe above (I know my close friends are experiencing this period of transformation too) to follow your heart. Open your heart, no matter how hard it is, no matter what traumas come to the surface, and keep it open. Because the heart is the most crucial chakra of all – it is our energetic centre. It unites our higher and lower chakras (our higher and lower Selves). It is our pure essence, our true state of Being: Love. When we live from our hearts we cannot help but raise our energetic vibrations and flow with the Universe, rather than against it.
We must be gentle with ourselves though. Balance (and ultimately, Enlightenment) cannot be reached through control, as to control (and judge) ourselves serves only to feed the ego, enslaving us further in the narrow realm of consciousness that the mind as most of us know it allows us to experience (about 3-5% of our potential). Moreover, the extremes of life are good. Everything is good as long as it brings us closer to our true nature.
Life is a dance and we are the dancers (thanks Pedro for that one). So, let’s dance.